Personal Branding Lessons from a Faster-Than-Normal-Brain

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Marketing Fad or Trend?

Thee marketing phrase of the year just might be, “personal brand.” And you might be saying, “ugh, really? Is this another millennial me-me tactic?”

While personal branding isn’t a new concept, lately, it’s hittin’ the scene like Britney did in 1999.

Despite the pretentiousness the name might evoke, to have a developed personal brand is essentially to be a person living in step with who you truly are and what you believe in. It’s being an authentic person that marches to the beat of your own drum, whether others like it or not, and in my world, that’s pretty kick a**.

And no, it’s not a millennial tactic. Just ask Peter Shankman, not-a-millennial, entrepreneur, author, customer service guru and best known for founding HARO, an online service for journalists to gather feedback from the public (one of the best PR inventions on earth, I might add), and he’s rockin’ his personal brand, a bit better than he rocks the spandex.

 “Having an audience is like wearing spandex, it’s a privilege, not a right.” – Peter Shankman

Recently I had the pleasure of masterminding with Peter at a conference, and he illuminated the essence of what it is to have a personal brand, and to live it, for the benefit of your customers. Peter says, “Connect the brands that you respect, with the audience who respects you, for the benefit of both parties.”

Peter has secured numerous spokesperson gigs with brands, by mastering the practice of connecting brands that he respects, with an audience that respects him. Based on this, it seems that to have a successful personal brand, for at least some, is not a fad. The key is, tapping into what your personal brand really is.

What is a Personal Brand? Unfortunately, the concept of a personal brand has earned a bad reputation as a way for people to boast about their self-proclaimed awesomeness, this is often seen on social media. The mistake that some professionals make is believing that social media immediately increases their value to their audience. Providing valuable content, sharing experiences that others relate to and building trust with that audience is what gives a person permission to provide value. Social media doesn’t make you the authority, building trust with your audience makes you the authority, social media is just the vehicle.

Think of this example, I post a selfie of myself looking extra cute with the perfect pouty lips, does my audience care? No.

Versus, I post a selfie of myself looking extra cute with the perfect pouty lips while kissing a puppy and raising money for an animal rescue that I believe in. I just went from self-absorbed cute girl on social media that my audience doesn’t care about, to, somewhat self-absorbed cute girl raising awareness for a cause I believe in, one of these images has value that an audience can relate to and take action on, where the other has value only to me.

As Peter says, “stop chasing the likes and start doing more likeable things.”

Peter’s brand is high-speed but focused, as a person living with ADHD his brand is about embracing what makes him different and using it to his advantage and he talks about this on his Podcast, Faster than Normal. His brand is being a dad to a toddler, and he isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.” His brand embraces technology, travel, is a bit geeky. He’s the everyday guy who embraces fitness and runs the races but will never win, and he does it anyway. And, there’s a lot of people like him, who relate to him, and trust him. This gives him power in his personal brand.

Peter illuminated this concept with a great example: when he wanted to know what type of diapers to get for his daughter, he didn’t call Pampers. He asked his fellow Dad-friends for their advice.

When I had a major life shift in nutrition and exercise and lost a bunch of weight, within days of posting about my journey on social media, my inbox was flooded with questions from friends and family wanting to know what exercise they should do and what they should eat. Because I embraced health, and because I shared that story, it has become part of my personal brand.

In addition to valuing health and wellness, my personal brand is metalhead, meets farm queen with hardworking values, an overcomer with a positive outlook, a loving heart and an obsession with SharPeis. This is echoed in the content my friends share with me on social media… heavy metal yoga, when she loves metal, head-banging dude on bike and SharPei tries to eat a Strawberry. If metalheads & SharPeis are your thing, friend me on Facebook.

We know people who are like us, we share something in common in some way. And we trust our friends. This is why a personal brand matters. People turn to those they know and trust when they are seeking advice on a subject.

Done correctly, a personal brand is much more than self-promotion. A personal brand is what others feel about you. That feeling or emotion is formed based on what you publicly stand for and how you live your life. That’s your personal brand.

Who Should have a Personal Brand? Everyone can benefit from asking themselves the thought provoking questions that define what your personal brand is. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be public about their personal brand.

You should develop a personal brand if you are an entrepreneur, seeking a better job, you want better contacts and clients for yourself or your company, you want industry recognition or you work in sales.

If you’re job seeking, you can use your personal brand to prove to your new potential boss why you are the person that he/she needs on their team.

If you are seeking contacts and clients, having a personal brand can develop trust in your relationships, thus leading to referrals and sales. A personal brand helps you gain industry recognition by standing out from others. Depending on your field, you may be in a space that requires you to stand out and separate yourself from the competition. As a salesperson, creating a personal brand allows you to be more appealing to your target audience.

Steps to Develop your Personal Brand: Personal branding helps you define your life priorities, focus on what matters most and take the steps to achieve your goals, and this can be a public or private action. Asking the question, what is my brand, allows you to dive into the deeper meaning of what you want out of life and what you stand for.

Here are five practical steps to get in touch with and build your personal brand.

Step 1: Get in touch with YOU

Who are you at the core? What are your qualities? Your personality? Your values and passions?

Nobody wants to build a brand around their fake self! Your brand is a reflection of who you are and what you believe. People connect with people and building your personal brand is all about connecting with other people. This doesn’t mean you need to be liked by all people. This means, you need to be authentic to who you are, and you will tap into your best ideal contacts and clients that you are meant to work with.

Step 2: Develop Content

You can build your credibility by teaching what you know. Create content that you know about and are passionate about and then find ways to share it. Sharing your content through blogs, video, and more will help you accomplish step #3

Step 3: Build an Online Community

Build your online community or audience by sharing content and participating in online forums. Provide a piece of value and give it away online in exchange for the recipient’s email address in order to build your email list, then send that person relevant content over time to continue engaging with them online.

Step 4: Give Public Talks

Do public speaking, workshops or retreats to educate others on your area of expertise. This builds credibility as an educator and leader in your field.

Step 5: Continue Learning

As people, we continue learning and growing personally and professionally. Seek to continue expanding your knowledge and stay a relevant leader in your field.

If you’re looking for something with more depth, I like this complete guide to developing your personal brand that Neil Patel offers.

Peter Shankman has two self-proclaimed speeds, “Namaste and I’ll cut a b***ch” and he embraces the concept of ADHD as a gift, not a curse.

Amber Swenor is a dog-loving, heavymetal, marketing diva.

What do you stand for?

Ready to build your personal brand? Consider enrolling in the 30 Days to a Rockin’ Brand Foundation Course

Amberdella Consulting Business Strategy

The Most Important Business Lesson I learned from Mom

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As a heart-centered business owner, at times, I’ve struggled to charge what I’m worth and limit the services I’m providing to what was agreed upon and paid for by the client. I’ve read so many blogs and books and talked with many successful business owners and entrepreneurs and I hear the same things from all of them:

  • Do what you love
  • Know your value and charge what you’re worth
  • Set your boundaries to avoid scope creep

I’ve been creating strategies to follow this advice, and yet I still sometimes struggle to follow it. It’s not because I’m not worth it. It’s not because I don’t have proven client success. It’s something that I can only explain as an innate inclination to give, from the heart, something passed to me either through genetics, or learned, from my mother.

My mother, Cindy, has cleaned houses for over 30 years and has hardly missed a day of work. Even when my little brother was born followed by a tubal ligation procedure, she left the hospital in less than 24 hours and returned to work 2 days later with a nursing newborn in tow! Talk about crappy maternity leave!

In her earlier years some of her customers affectionately named her “white lightning” for her blond head of hair and how quickly she zipped around cleaning their home with focused energy; she’d zoom by in a flash that looked like white lightning. My mother taught me how to multi-task and work efficiently. Some people are truly born for what they do and you’d think she was born to clean homes. As I grew older I came to understand that her true gift goes beyond knowing all of the best tricks and tips for cleaning a home. My mother’s true gift is serving others.

Through the years I learned so much about the families that my mom cleaned for. They weren’t just her customers, she thought of them as family. She spoke proudly of their accomplishments and was honored to be welcomed into their homes. She cleaned for an author, business executives, a dentist, the mayor, world travelers and widely respected professionals. She cleaned for working class families including nurses, farmers and an in-home daycare provider. Where she really found her calling, was with seniors.

I’ve never seen my mother more content than when she talks about her Poka and Ida, and her Alice and the other seniors that she’s served through the years. For my mother, it is the highest honor and privilege to get to know seniors, with their years of history, experience and stories to share. She explains that having them open their hearts to her and share their personal stories are the greatest gifts she could receive.

This is likely why when one of those seniors accidentally handed her a $5 bill and two $1 bills ($7 total) instead of the $30 that they should have paid her for that day, she didn’t say anything, she instead thanked them and smiled as she went on her way. Her explanation to me was that she didn’t want to embarrass them by pointing out that they had miscounted their money. So she took her $7 and happily and respectfully headed home, not feeling slighted in the least.

I heard countless stories like this through the years. However, not of all the stories were as endearing as the last. Some were stories about downright ungrateful, underpaying clients, and it broke my heart to hear how some people could treat my mother and how she allowed them to make her feel. There were stories of people who would walk by her in their house without saying good morning or even acknowledging that she was there. There was a family my mom cleaned for, whose daughter went to school with my younger brother, and at one point made a snotty remark to him in school, “well your mom cleans MY HOUSE!”

For years as a teenager and young adult I pleaded, lectured and begged her to raise her rates and/or let go of the thankless clients. I could justify the sweet seniors because of how they made her feel, but the people who didn’t even give her the time of day to say hello when she arrived? No. She needed to drop them. At one point she hadn’t asked anyone for a raise in 13 years! When I pushed her for an explanation on why she wouldn’t raise her rates her response was, “if they think I’m worth it, they’ll give me a raise.” Five years later two of those thankless clients still hadn’t given her a raise, and my mother finally quit. It was one of the most liberating experiences of her life. That was a good day.

For years I lectured my mother on everything she was doing wrong with her business:

“Mom, you should charge more because you have to buy your own insurance!”

                     “Mom, you need to account for the fact that as a business owner you’re not getting a company 401k match or paid vacation.”

“Mom, someday your body will ache and you might not be able to do this work until retirement, you need to plan for that and charge more so that you can save for the future.”

“You DONATED your cleaning to them as a Christmas gift because you wanted to do something nice?!”

                                                               “Don’t you know your value?!”

“Why don’t you see that you are WORTH MORE?!”

                                  “You are running a business, not a charity.”

“Mom, you are already by far the cheapest house cleaner out there while being trustworthy, experienced and reliable. Why don’t you understand that you should at least charge a fair market rate?”

And then, over the past year, my lectures changed to gratitude:

“Mom, you are one of the most kind-hearted, amazing people I’ve ever met in my life.”

“Mom, I’m so proud of you.”

“Mom, I’m so lucky that you’re my mom.”

I finally realized that my mom wasn’t going to change. She is content living a simple life and serving “her seniors.” She tells me that every day is a good day and she is blessed to wake up and love what she does. Her life is happy and full, even if in some situations she is underpaid, she’s no longer under-appreciated, because she made a choice.

I’m happy that my mom is in this place now, but it took her years to get there. I often find myself questioning, why do we as people, particularly so many women, struggle with seeing and believing our value? And how do we find balance between serving from the heart while being fairly paid for the experience and quality of work we bring?

I’ve read a lot of inspirational and thought provoking articles on these topics. One that I recently discovered and particularly like for getting right to the real issues about why so many aren’t charging what they are worth is a post by career coach Kathy Caprino. She identifies the 5 root reasons for why someone isn’t charging what they’re worth:

  1. A deep insecurity about the value you’re bringing
  2. A lack of understanding the key outcomes you deliver
  3. A failure to realize that prices that are too low also attract problem clients and customers
  4. Mistaking pricing as the most important driver in their business
  5. Vagueness about the numbers

I completely agree with her analysis and if you find yourself struggling to charge what you’re worth, I encourage you to read her full post here.

So, what happens when you address those 5 root issues, you get a system in place and you still encounter a client who you connect with, who has the need and desire to work with you but doesn’t have the budget, and you feel the inclination to help, from the heart? This is where you have a personal choice to make.

I have learned three big lessons from watching my mom’s journey (which are ironically very similar to the top 3 lessons learned from successful business owners and entrepreneurs):

  • If you follow your heart you can’t go wrong.
  • Know what you’re worth.
  • Recognize when to walk away.

These principles can be difficult to follow at times because sometimes they feel contradictory. For example, follow your heart and you can’t go wrong… well, if your heart says to help someone who can’t afford to pay the going rate; that would contradict, knowing what you’re worth. But that’s where the 3rd lesson comes in, recognize when to walk away. Choosing to consciously help someone who might not fill your financial bucket but fills your heart bucket can be just as rewarding, like my mom choosing to help seniors.

I’m finding ways to create the balance between business and heart. I can do right by customers, and I can serve from the heart, while charging what I’m worth. And if I choose to meet a client where they are and charge less, I own that it’s my choice to make. The key point is that it’s a choice that comes not from a place of questioning self-worth, or from insecurity. The decision has to come purely from the heart, and that is the most important lesson that I learned from Mom.

Fellow business leaders, entrepreneurs, men and women, how do you find balance between business and heart? I’d love to hear your experiences and advice!

Amberdella spends her time creating helpful tools and resources to empower business owners in marketing. If you’re looking for some handy tools check out free resources here!

If you’d like to engage more online, visit our Rockpreneurs Facebook community here.

Are All Businesses Brandable?

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The Granny Brand

I hope that you are as lucky as I was to have had two awesome grandmas. Growing up with grandma Evie I felt safe and loved. At her home, everyone was welcome and there would always be homecooked meals and plenty to go around. Grandma Evie was hard-working, stead-fast, reliable and easy to talk to.

With my Grandma Shelby I felt wild, alive and encouraged to be exactly who I was! We danced, laughed and together we were the life of the party. Her nickname for me was Animal, and I was encouraged to let it all go and act like one; being with my Grandma Shelby was always footloose and free.

Each of my grannies had a distinct brand. You knew what they stood for and how they’d make you feel, and in the simplest description, this is what it means to have a brand.

Having a brand is like forming that formidable bond between Granny and Granddaughter. That unbreakable safety, adoration and love. If you can win your customers over like a grandma wins her grandkids, you are in serious business.

Building Granny’s Good Reputation

Someone recently posed this question, are all businesses brandable?

My answer is yes, all businesses have the potential to build a brand. To have a brand is to have a reputation and to make an impression on your customers, so if you have customers, you have the potential of building a brand. This is true even if you are the only business of your type or you are the only company who manufactures a tiny intricate piece that is used in building another product so your customers have no option but to buy from you. While you may not really need to focus on brand development (at least not for now while you don’t have competition), you still have the potential of being brandable.

Not only are all businesses brandable, all businesses should be thinking about brand development from early in the game.

A brand is essentially a business’ reputation, and every business has a reputation with their target customer audience, good, bad or indifferent. You get to influence how that reputation unfolds.

Too often businesses make the mistake of assuming that a brand is a logo, a tagline, or a one-liner in an advertisement. Those are pieces of their marketing, however, none of them are the brand. A brand is how your customers think and feel about you. It’s your job as a business owner to ensure that the way you want to be perceived is aligned with how you are actually perceived. All the things you do to bring those things into alignment is essentially the process of brand development.

If you had a bad granny and the point hasn’t hit home already, try this:

When you think of these people, places and products, what do you feel?

McDonalds — Red Bull — Donald Trump — Apple — Hillary Clinton — Wal-Mart — Starbucks

You may feel indifferent. You may feel disdain or dislike for some, while others provide feelings of hope, stability or prosperity. How you feel about that business is essentially the brand that they are crafting for the given audience type that you fall within. If you have love for that brand, you may fall within their core audience that they exist for. Businesses don’t need to appeal to all people, they only need to align with their core audience, essentially who they are in business for.

For example, one could derive that Starbucks’ primary audience are high-earning, professional adults, 25-40 years of age, living in urban areas and typically care about social welfare. They appeal to this audience through contemporary design that’s consistent throughout the brand including advertising, décor and packaging. By staying current in product and décor, Starbucks has become a status symbol for what it means to be affluent, urban and hip. They appeal to those who care about social welfare through both internal standards and public policy.

This isn’t a case-study on Starbucks, this is to demonstrate that every business has a target audience, and it’s imperative for that business to build a good reputation with their core audience, like granny building her good reputation with her granddaughter.

Why Does this Matter for your Business?

Brand development can help your business accomplish several things:

  • Improve recognition: When you think of major companies like McDonalds, Wal-Mart or Apple, you can likely state what they sell and for whom. They are solving a problem for their ideal customers. Your business can accomplish recognition within your target audience as well. You don’t need to be known by millions, you just need to be known by your ideal customers within your service or market area, so that the next time someone says, “I need help with XYZ,” people think of your business! The other way in which you improve recognition is by creating consistency with your marketing materials including logo, website, print materials and more. By creating consistency in your materials you become more recognizable and memorable. If someone sees a branded vehicle or print materials, then checks you out online and then calls on the phone, all of the pieces in this process should echo the same look/feel and vibe. This consistency helps build recognition with current and prospective customers.
  • Build Trust: Brand development builds trust in several ways. First, when you identify what you want your customer’s brand experience to be, it gives you something to measure and evaluate against to ensure that you are stacking up. This also allows you to ensure that you are creating consistency in how your products and services are delivered and supported. Creating this reliable and consistent experience builds trust with customers. They can count on you to deliver what they are looking for.
  • Build Value: Branding builds value for future sales and growth. A business who has an established name, presence and reputation is more valuable than one who nobody has heard of; or one that nobody understands. Imagine two companies today. One starts working on their brand including a clear statement about who they serve and why, developing cohesive marketing elements that they use consistently, directed at their target audience, over and over again. The other business has a friend, or someone else working for free and without experience design their logo, and then they change it a few times.They try a few different advertising routes and make up their taglines as they go. They come up with special offers on the fly who are “directed at everyone,” to try and drum up sales. Five years from now one of them is a lot more likely to be known for something specific and valuable, you can guess which that is. Brand development now builds future value.
  • Inspire Employees: Branding may inspire employees by providing context for the work that everyone is doing. Many employees, especially today’s millennial workforce, want more than work, they want a bigger mission and vision to work toward. When employees understand the company’s mission, they are more likely to take greater pride in their work and in the company.

Steps you can take:

You can start by evaluating or re-evaluating the foundation of your brand. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you in business?
  • Who is your core customer?
  • Why does that audience love you?
  • What problem do you solve for that audience?
  • What is the brand story that you WANT to be told?
  • In what ways is that story currently being cultivated?
  • Where are you falling short and what can be improved?

Grannies’ brands live on

All businesses ARE brandable. The key is getting to the root of why you are in business and what your company stands for. Your marketing strategy will change as the market changes and new opportunities arise, but the reason that you exist does not. Those are the things that matter and that truly creates a brand.

Would your brand pass the Granny-test? Do you make people feel something that is memorable and distinguishable? Is your business known for something (and something that you want to be known for)?

My amazing grannies are both gone from earth, but their brands live on in their reputations and the way they made all of us around them feel. That lasts a lifetime and beyond.